I’m excited to announce that I’ll have a solo show at Northern Illinois University’s Backspace Gallery for November 2022.

I get to fill more than 20 linear feet of wall space with installation art, which means I’m working larger than ever before. That’s quite exciting.

One gallery wall is about 8 feet long and the other is a bit over 11 feet long, plus each wall has short side walls to it.

If you remember my round “not-a-quilts” from my solo show last May – here’s one of them:

Picture of artwork, "Is the Modern Housewife a Lady of Leasure" by Elaine Luther

“Is the Modern Housewife a Lady of Leasure” by Elaine Luther. Not-a-quilt textile art, 2012. Materials: fabric, interfacing, wood hoops, found quilt fragment, custom fabric designed by the artist.

the concept for this show is like that, only much larger. The largest circle in the previous/inspiration pieces, were about 20″, I think. The largest circles in this show – well, I don’t know yet, but so far I’ve made elements that are 30″ x 30″ and larger!

Some elements will be mounted flat to the wall, others are mounted on canvas, wood hoop, or wood panel, and will stand off from the wall at different levels.

Thematically, at least one wall will be similar to the theme of my previous solo show, Ghost Prints and Shadow Work. It will be about women’s labor. The circles of fabric with text that you see in the photo at the top of this post – the text is a 1929 government report from the Bureau of Home Economics, called Is the Modern Housewife a Lady of Leasure” (spelling, sic). In that report they note that the average housewife does household labor for 51 hours a week, and if this is a part time job, we wonder what a full time job would look like?

As I prepare for this show, and knowing that I might be invited to speak to a college class, I’m taking mental notes on my process and inspiration.

I’ve looked back at these blog posts to see what I’ve written about women’s labor and using quilts in my work:

Clocking in for Unpaid Labor

and an older post, Why I Use Quilts in my Art

(TW: death and grief)

Here’s a bit from that second post, from 2014:

Having worked with quilts now since about 2001, I started to wonder why, what do they symbolize?

A big theme in my artwork is forms, idioms, vehicles for ideas. My Day of the Dead alters are part of a traditional form that celebrates a life.

My “Medals That You Wouldn’t Want to Earn,” use medals as an idiom to express ideas, through this form that you know, you recognize, only it’s kind of the opposite of a usual medal, since it’s for an injury or suffering.

Come to think of it, there are medals for that. Military medals such as the Purple Heart.

My “Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework,” use another form, the household, roadside or front yard shrine. But as usual, it’s not straight up, I’m using that form to say what I want to say.

With the “Our Ladies,” I’m both elevating and complaining. (That’s kind of my thing.) I want you to notice the invisible housework that I do, that other moms do. And I also want to protest my having to do it, the unpaid labor of women that runs the world.

The silver leafing is to elevate and monumentalize. Much, much more has been written about the whys behind the Our Ladies. See a previous blog post for links to the many interviews and profiles about me and that series. They’ve really struck a chord with people.

(Artists, this is part of why we should all blog, fascinating, and helpful, to read my own explanation on my art, as I saw it back then.)

In reading the above, and thought, “Oh, right, I’m doing it again with the timecards!” Timecards are the new form for expression. I’ve done medals, shrines, now time cards, for me and anyone who sends in a SASE for a free time card, makes art on it and sends it back.

What I’m Working on in the Studio Now

I’m cutting lots of things into circles, including old collage paintings on canvas, a found quilt, abandoned quilt blocks, my custom fabric from Spoonflower. And I’m gathering up things that are already circles, like the cyanotype print in the photo above, and embroidered textiles.

This show feels like a logical extension of the previous, smaller work. And luckily, I figured out the how-to on the smaller work, so I know how to make the work and install it.

I’m currently torn between the “show the process!” feeling and the “go in the studio and work and don’t talk about it” feeling. I think it’s time to go head down and work, so probably no more photos until the big reveal, which will be pretty soon! This show will be up October 24 to November 21, 2022.

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